Bosher’s Dam is a short paddle up river from Huguenot Flatwater and is a scenic, peaceful and pleasant spot to enjoy the James River.
According to the Falls of the James Atlas by Bill Trout, the 12-foot-high dam was built in 1823 on the site of Fore’s Fish Dam. It used to be a spot for trapping fish with slat dams, which is illegal now. Bosher’s Dam was extensively rebuilt in 1835 to its current height of 12 feet. It was constructed to provide water for grist mills, the Kanawha canal systems and other developments. It is a feeder dam, backing up the river so that it can flow through controlling gates and a guard lock into the canal.
Located just west of the Edward E. Willey Bridge at Richmond’s border with Henrico County, Bosher’s Dam marks the beginning of the Falls of the James, the seven-mile stretch of the river where it drops more than 100 feet in altitude as it runs through Richmond. Other than the 12-foot drop, the water is flat on both sides of the dam. The majority of the rapids are about two miles downriver from Bosher’s Dam.
The fish ladder at Bosher’s Dam was opened in 1999, providing fish with access to more than 300 miles of traditional spawning grounds for migrating fish on the James River and its tributaries between Richmond and Lynchburg.
Fish, such as herring, shad, striped bass and yellow perch, had been blocked since the dam was built, according to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries. Spawning runs in Virginia generally occur between March and early June.
Another bonus in the spring is a blue heron rookery just to the west, above the dam on the north bank. The 10 acres of land in the area around the dam is city property and the James River Park System is in charge, but since it is only accessible by water, there is little traffic to the area. The canal borders the property on the north.
The area is downhill from the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia’s conference and retreat center, also known as Roslyn, located on River Road. There isn’t a legal way to get to the dam by land, so by water is your choice.
The fish ladder is worth seeing, although there are many restrictions (for safety) and it is hard to see a fish as it progresses up the ladder. If the water level in the James is high, the paddle from Huguenot could be a challenge as the river is pushing against your vessel, but the peace and quiet of the area is worth the visit. There are no rapids on the way.